A Fairfax County teacher who says you can't "teach" but you can help people learn has been named Virginia Teacher of the Year for 1985.

Jewell Alexander, 62, who has taught English, drama and speech for more than 32 years, was chosen last week from 25 candidates to represent Virginia in the national Teacher of the Year competition in Washington next April.

"It is impossible to 'teach' anybody anything," says Alexander, "but it is possible . . . to help others learn."

A native of Texas and daughter of a school superintendent, Alexander has taught in five states and England. She came to Fairfax County in 1965 and taught at Fort Hunt High School before going to West Springfield High School when it opened in September 1968.

She served as head of the English Department from 1978 to 1983 but returned to full-time teaching because, she said, "working with young people is what teaching is all about."

West Springfield Principal George Stepp said that Alexander is "the best teacher I've ever seen in the classroom."

Creta Payne, who teaches an English class for gifted ninth-grade students at West Springfield, said, "We talk about gifted students all the time. Well, Jewell is a gifted teacher."